What Happens If I Talk To The Police Before They Read Me My Rights?
There is often a misconception surrounding the familiar Miranda warning that the police must give a criminal suspect before beginning a custodial interrogation. If the police fail to give the warning, any statement made by the suspect is inadmissible in court, that much is true. But the misconception is that this also means that any other evidence obtained from an inadmissible statement is also inadmissible. That is not necessarily the case.
Indeed, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA) recently stated that “a failure to comply with Miranda is not a valid basis for suppressing the physical fruits of a custodial statement. And a failure to comply with Miranda in an earlier interview does not bar statements in a later interview that complies with Miranda,” unless the police acted in a “calculated” way to undermine the suspect’s rights.
CCA Rules Admission of Pre-Miranda Statements Were “Harmless Error”
The CCA’s statements came in a case, Pugh v. State, involving a man charged with illegal possession of heroin. The defendant in this case already had an outstanding arrest warrant when he was detained by the police. At the time, the defendant was driving his wife’s car.
After the police arrested the defendant on the warrant, he made certain voluntary statements during the ride to the station. Specifically, when an officer asked the defendant, “What do you got in the car?”, the defendant replied, “I got stuff in the car, man,” specifying there were drugs and a handgun. At this point, the police had not yet given a Miranda warning. Nevertheless, the officers acted on the defendant’s voluntary statement and proceeded to search his wife’s car, which in fact contained bags of heroin and a handgun.
A jury subsequently convicted the defendant of heroin possession. An intermediate appellate court later held that the defendant’s admission to the officer in the police car should not have been admitted as evidence at trial, since it came before the police gave the Miranda warning.
The CCA, however, said that even assuming the defendant’s statement was inadmissible, it was a “harmless error” to admit it at trial. Basically, even if the admission regarding having “stuff” in the car was inadmissible, the heroin found in the car was still admissible as it was “physical evidence not barred by Miranda.” Essentially, the CCA saw this as a case where the defendant “was caught red-handed with the drugs and had no realistic defense.” The defendant was the only person in the car when the police stopped him, so it was logical for the jury to infer the drugs found in the vehicle belonged to him.
Contact Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Keith B. French Today
As always, cases like this illustrate why your best bet is to say nothing when detained or questioned by the police. Also, never assume that just because you have not been read your rights, anything you see cannot be used against you in court. And if you need legal advice or representation from a qualified Pearland drug crimes lawyer, contact the offices of Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today to schedule a consultation.